How to manage scaphoid waist fractures? Introduction of pragmatic imaging efficient pathway and literature review of the recent evidence

J Med Imaging Radiat Sci. 2021 Aug 31;S1939-8654(21)00195-8. doi: 10.1016/j.jmir.2021.08.010. Online ahead of print.


Introduction and objective: The scaphoid bone sustains about 90 % of carpal bone fractures and is the second-highest bone at risk of post-traumatic osteonecrosis. Delayed diagnosis and treatment could lead to non-union and advanced carpal bones collapse. This study aimed to introduce an imaging efficient and practical scaphoid waist fracture management pathway (SWFMP) and measure its efficacy in clinical practice.

Materials and methods: The SWFMP was introduced in January 2020. Suspected occult fractures were approached by early orthopaedic clinical assessment and subsequent urgent MRI scan without repeating scaphoid X-rays. Scaphoid waist fractures displaced < 2 mm were treated with 8 weeks below elbow cast immobilization followed by CT scan if delayed union was suspected. Waist fractures displaced > 2 mm were managed with surgical fixation. Adult patients referred from the emergency department (ED) to the Virtual Fracture Clinic (VFC) with acute scaphoid injury from January 2019 to October 2019 (Pre SWFMP, n = 29), were identified and compared to those managed from January 2020 to October 2020 (Post SWFMP, n = 33).

Results: Mean age was 37.9 (SD = 20.61) and 36.2 (SD = 17.06) years in the pre-SWFMP and post-SWFMP cohorts respectively. Fiften patients (51.7%) had the right side affected in the pre-SWFMP cohort and twenty-three patients (69.7%) in the post-SWFMP cohort. Scaphoid X-rays requested by ED have increased from 19 (65.5%) to 31 (94%) and repeated X-rays reduced from 17 (58.6%) to 10 (30.3%) after the introduction of the SWFMP. Mean wrist cast immobilization for patients without scaphoid fractures dropped from 16.9 days (SD = 5.57) to 3.6 days (SD = 6.24) after the SWFMP (p = 0.001). In the pre-SWFMP cohort, 24 patients had no fracture, 4 achieved full healing and 1 developed non-union. In the post-SWFMP cohort, 29 patients had no fracture, 1 achieved full union and delayed union was detected in 3 patients at 8 weeks.

Conclusions: The SWFMP has improved the clinical practice by reducing unnecessary ionizing radiation, unnecessary cast immobilization, and by using a timely fracture fixation intervention.

Keywords: Scaphoid imaging; Scaphoid waist fracture; occult fracture.